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What can grafting do?


The Grafter's Handbook began its explanation of grafting by noting what grafting won't do.  Although we often think of grafting as a way of getting more fruit trees, the techniques outlined in Garner's book won't actually create more plants; instead, grafting changes rootstocks (what you graft onto) from one variety to another, often impacting the tree's size, disease-resistance, and other features in the process.  Another factor to consider is that grafting is easier with dicots (most of the plants you're familiar with) and conifers than with monocots (like grasses and garlic), and you shouldn't expect two different species to survive if grafted together (although they sometimes will if the species are related).

With those caveats aside, grafting has much more potential than most of us have probably imagined.  A skilled grafter can:

  • Make hundreds of baby trees of the same variety using whip-and-tongue or bud grafts.
  • Change the variety of an older tree or create a fruit cocktail tree using topworking and frameworking.
  • Save sick trees by bridging gaps in the bark, buttressing up weak limbs, or adding on more extensive roots.
  • Study how various parts of a plant work.
Bridge grafting

As you might expect from this extensive list of grafting results, there are scores of methods to choose from, and Garner walks you through most of them.  Luckily for the beginner, most of these techniques have niche purposes, such as changing the variety of rubber trees or connecting tomato tops to potato roots, so only a handful of the grafting methods are really necessary for the backyard plant propagator to learn.  Later posts in this lunchtime series will present the most common grafting techniques that a homesteader might use, as well as information on how to grow your own rootstocks, collect scionwood, and more.

The Weekend Homesteader starts at the beginning, teaching you to grow the easiest fruit trees and bushes.

This post is part of our Grafting lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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